“I can’t stop smiling. I am now a great uncle.” This is a text I awoke to from one of my closest friends. His niece gave birth to a beautiful new baby and that made him a “great” uncle. The joy I know he is feeling over welcoming this new human into his family is very beautiful to behold. But the joy he seems to be feeling over moving into the “great” strata of his family structure might even bring him more joy in some ways. He is my age—younger I think by less than a year—so I confess to some joy myself.
I will turn 43 in a few weeks. One member remarked at hearing this that she remembered when I turned 40 and the congregation had a cake for me. I think I actually preached on my 40th birthday, if I recall correctly (in my advancing years). But somehow now my friend who is younger than me by some, seems older in my eyes than I do. The status of “great” might have something to do with it. Maybe I’m covetous of an honorific I have no power ever to achieve by my own will. It is something that can only be bestowed by another.
There is a name for a blessing that is unbidden or unasked for in our lives: grace. It’s one of those churchy words, I know. But it’s one of the good ones. It adorns the name of one of the great actors of an age: Grace Kelly, a blessing to us all. It also harkens back to the peaceful moment before eating that many of us grew up experiencing at the tables of our upbringing. It may even be part of your meal still.
In the case of my friend, he is experiencing the sense of loving someone new in the world, someone he hasn’t met yet, more than he could have imagined. In some circles this is also grace. My friend may have achieved “great”ness through no work of his own, but he is also giving something of grace. Another attribute of grace for many is all in its timing. It is something we receive before we know we need it or right at the moment we do.
When I think of grace, I think of ballet dancers. Dance is sometimes described as beautifying the space between standing up and lying down. And the attendant grace, the sense that the dancer has already received all they need of balance, skill, and poise to accomplish the dance, is what makes ballet and other forms of dance so beautiful, so breathtaking. In many ways, life is the space we try to beautify between the times when we are born and when we die. The image of new life in his niece’s arms makes my friend say, “I could not love this little human more.” So beautiful, so breathtaking is the life we hold, the lives we touch at times. May we each know the grace of this great certainty: that we could not love one another more.
And may it ever be so,
Rev. T. J.